Title deeds campaign gathers pace By Patrick Dewhurst Published on July 1, 2011
AN ESTIMATED 50,000 Cypriot property owners moved closer to getting their title deeds this week, after MEPs, British leaders and the European Commission rallied to pressure Cypriot authorities to enforce EU law.
The Cyprus Property Action Group (CPAG),which represents some 50,000 property buyers with outstanding deeds, is leading the campaign with the backing of 60 MEPs and the European Commission’s Justice Minister Viviane Reading.
At CPAG’s behest, 42 of these MEPs sent a joint letter to UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Reading on June 17, which said: “The practice of withholding title deeds or legal ownership of properties which have been paid for in full by the purchasers is an infringement of EU directive 2005/29/EC and Cypriot Laws 103 (I)/2007 which transposes it.”
Asked about the letter, CPAG’s Denis O’Hare said: “We have tried to enlist the MEPs because we got nowhere with the government of Cyprus, despite their amnesty on title deeds legislation... The problem of title deeds is still there.”
A confirmation by the Justice Minister that property developers are currently infringing this unfair practices directive would be a significant development for home buyers, because it would allow them to bypass Cypriot courts and go straight to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
This direct route to the ECHR is possible because the government, perhaps unwisely, stated its view that the directive does not apply to contracts of sale that predate the law, thereby exhausting buyers’ local options.
Following several complaints to the Cyprus Consumer Protection Service (CCPS) by home buyers who are waiting for deeds - once again with CPAG’s encouragement - nearly all were rejected for this reason.
O’Hare and the MEPs believe the government’s interpretation of the directive is wrong, however, and that the buyers have a strong legal case, since the directive talks about unfair practices ‘before, during and after a contractual relationship’ and as long as a developer withholds the deed, the contractual relationship is continuing.
O’Hare said yesterday: “We believe the CCPS’ standard response is akin to saying that the government is going to implement a speeding law but it only applies to cars purchased after this law became effective”.
In addition to the MEPs, CPAG also has UK Minister for Europe David Lidington, who, no doubt to the dismay of local politicians, compared the purchase of usurped Greek Cypriot properties in the north to title deed problems in the south during a visit to the island earlier this week.
Lidington said: “I have letters from (British) MPs about the property issue in the south of Cyprus too... I am concerned to make sure as a British minister that the concerns of British citizens expressed to me by their members of parliament are understood by my colleagues here in Cyprus.”
O’Hare said CPAG is in direct communication with the European Union’s Justice Commission, which said that it was taking the matter seriously.
If the commission also finds in favour of the buyers, and the developers are shown to be infringing on the directive, then it could be up to the government to foot the bill since they are responsible for the non enforcement of a law.
28.000 title deeds issued since 2009 Published on September 18, 2011
INTERIOR MINISTER Neoclis Sylikiotis said yesterday that around 28,000 title deeds have been issued since 2009 following the introduction of new mechanisms and greater coordination between the relevant services.
Speaking before the annual general assembly of the Cyprus Association of Real Estate Agents in Nicosia, the minister highlighted the legal and administrative initiatives taken by the government to solve the problem of pending title deeds.
“The general assessment of the four bills promoted by government and passed recently by parliament is that they constitute a significant reform of the legal framework governing the legitimacy of thousands of buildings and the issuing of title deeds,” said Sylikiotis.
“As a result of the new mechanisms introduced at the Land Registry and the coordinated efforts by all relevant services, around 28,000 title deeds have been issued from 2009 until now,” he said, adding that the authorities are now able to issue town planning permits for regular developments within three to four months on average.
28,000 Titel Deeds issues since 2009 but as many as 120,000 homeowners still awaiting issue of upto another 100,000, how long is it likely to take....? We purchased in 2005 with contracts being exchanged in November of that year. Build was delayed until October 2007. Where do we sit in the scheme of things....? Yous assistance thoughts would be greatly appreciated. bluu
Another point of interest....On the purchase of our property in Peyia, we were represented by a laywer named Emily Lemoniata. We eventually established she was not only representing us but also the developer, Paschali. We subsequently changed lawyers as there was undoubtedly a conflict of interest we felt. Is this legal in Cyprus and could we make a claim against her even though the transfer of Power of Attorney took place in August 2007 when we authorised a new lawyer to act on our behalf.
EU demands answers on title deeds By Patrick Dewhurst Published on December 15, 2011
CYPRUS is in trouble with the EU commission again, but this time it’s not the environment or financial mismanagement: it is property.
The government is facing some tough questions from EU Commission Vice President Viviane Reding about the measures they took - or should have taken - to ensure property sales did not fall under the unfair commercial practice directive (UCPD).
Reding’s letter to the government follows a June petition by the Cyprus Property Action Group (CPAG) and 41 MEPs, calling for confirmation of whether withholding title deeds is a violation of the EU’s fair practice laws.
Responding to CPAG’s petition last week, Reding said: “...an administrative letter has been sent to the Cypriot authorities enquiring on the one hand, as to the actions carried out at national level to address the reported practices and... On the other hand, about the measures taken to ensure that consumers are adequately informed about the Cypriot law transposing Directive 2005/29/EC on Unfair Commercial Practices (the ‘UCPD’).”
The EU has given the Cyprus government until early January to reply to the memo. “Should the information communicated be unsatisfactory, the European Commission is prepared to take further action as appropriate,” Reding said.
It is not clear what that further action will be, but according to CPAG leader Denis O’Hare, it could include sanctions and funding cuts, as happened in Bulgaria after it failed to tackle its own corruption issues.
O’Hare believes the government has not only failed to implement the directive, but that he also has evidence that the government sought to suppress knowledge of it to consumers. This claim is also being investigated by the EU.
Reding’s letter could have arrived in the nick of time, as it coincided with one bank’s attempt to auction land (and houses built on it) it had mortgaged to a bankrupt developer, leaving the land’s residents facing repossession.
Until now, the government has always claimed that such buyers were protected once they have lodged their sales contract at the Land Registry.
Reding’s initial review of CPAG’s petition should be encouraging for the estimated 50,000 expats with outstanding title deeds in Cyprus.
“The lack of pre-contractual information to property buyers about the existence of developers’ mortgages on the Cypriot properties offered for sale, which is the crucial fact having led to the subsequent lack of delivery of title deeds, would seem prima facie to amount to a misleading omission in the sense of Article 7 of the UCPD,” she said.
Early next year Reding will issue a report into the UCPD’s implementation in member states, listing the most unfair practices encounters, including in the property sector.
Once published it is probable that draft legal changes will be developed by the Commission and these will be voted on by the EU Parliament.
“At this stage we are fairly confident that the practice of withholding title deeds could be outlawed, something which could have a massive impact on the property industry in Cyprus - and most people would say about time too,” O’Hare said.
House extends town planning amnesty Published on November 2, 2012
BY A majority vote parliament yesterday approved two items of legislation re-extending the Town Planning Amnesty to April 30, 2013.
So far only some 14,000 Statements of Intent have been submitted under the provisions of the amnesty, which addresses planning and building violations.
The amnesty, voted through in March last year, aims to sort out the problem of an estimated 130,000 pending title deeds.
The amnesty allows one to legalise, for a fee, some irregularities carried out after building a property, such as closing up a balcony or building a garage.
By legalising the property, people can receive a title deed and a final certificate of approval, or a title deed listing the property’s irregularities.
The amnesty only applies to “existing buildings” which, according to article 10D of the Streets and Building (Revised) Law 2011, are those that have a Planning and/or a Building Permit (although they may have expired). The building must have been completed before the above law came into force on April 7, 2011.